WA opens Australia’s Largest Solar Farm

Close up view of Greenough Solar Farm

The Western Australian government opened the largest Solar Farm in Australia two weeks ago, potentially being the first of many large scale renewable power plants to be built In Australia.

The $50 million 10 megawatt system could generate enough electricity to power 3000 homes, if it wasn’t being used for a desalination plant.

The solar plant which is know as Greenough River Solar Farm, is just outside of Walkaway, 50km south-east of Geraldton.

The plant has 150 000 photovoltaic panels spread over 50 hectares and once completed will be used by Western Australia Water Corporation to power the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant near Binningup.

The WA Energy minister, Peter Collier back in April said should spur on future development. “The demonstration of this proven technology in WA on a commercial scale should encourage the development of larger projects and reduce renewable energy costs in the medium to long term,” the Minister said.

The $50 million plant was funded by $30 million of government money, with the rest coming from GE Energy Financial Services and Verve Energy.

Governmentnews.com.au have reported that Minister for Regional Development Brendon Grylls said that Verve Energy are potentially looking to expand the facilities capacity to 40 megawatts.

It is fantastic news to hear WA building such large scale renewable power stations. Onward to 20% by 2020!

The entire Greenough Solar farm. This picture gives a good indication of the scale of the plant.






WA Sawfish in Top 100 Endangered Species in the World

The Freshwater Sawfish (pristis pristis)

Scientists have added the Freshwater Sawfish, otherwise known as the Common Sawfish to the list of the Top 100 most threatened species in the world.

The Sawfish which was once prevalent in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic tropical and subtropical coastal waters is now only found in pockets off the north Western Australian coastline according to a new report Titled ‘Priceless or Worthless’.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) who put out the report highlighted the fact that these 100 species are the next to face extinction if nothing is done to protect them.

The only other Western Australian species to make the list was the Western Underground Orchid.

Senior Murdoch Researcher Dr David Morgan in a press release regarding work they are doing in the Kimberley, “Fitzroy River freshwater sawfish and dwarf sawfish are important because many populations in South East Asia and the east coast of Australia have become extinct,”

“We have tagged more than 700 sawfish, and we are learning about how this population of fish are moving through the river.

“We believe the freshwater sawfish spend the first four to five years of their life in the river before moving out to sea and can live to more than 40 years old and grow to more than 7m long.”

While highlighting the species in dire need of support the report also focused on ways to help these species back from the brink of extinction. It suggested further research into the distribution of the sawfish and the threats it faces.

The report itself is beautifully put together with some great quotes and pictures. I encourage you to take a look here.

Original Source: Press Release. Report.

Larger Play Areas For Skinnier Kids

We need more of this for our children

Increase the size of grassed school yards and you will have less overweight students new research by UWA professor Dr Karen Martin has revealed. Her study found that increasing the size of play areas in schools reduces the risk of obesity.

If the school contained larger play areas that didn’t have obstructions in the way the children tended to play more, increasingly physical exercise and helping to keep them fit and healthy. The rates went up even further if a physical coordinator was present during play time.

“The benefits of childhood physical activity transcend childhood and adolescence, and include a reduced risk of being overweight or obese,” Dr Martin said.

25.8% of Australian children  are obese  with the rates slightly higher for boys at 25.8% according to statistics from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

The older population aren’t setting a good example for the young ones, with 61.4% of Australians either overweight or obese.

A person is considered overweight if their Body Mass Index is between 25 and 30 and obese if over 30.

Public service announcement  If are thinking about losing weight or want to get into shape please consult your doctor.


Ningaloo And Other Reefs Headed For Oblivion Ecologist Warn

Wiped out in a generation?

Australian coral reef systems and others like it around the world are set to collapse within a generation an ecologist from Australian National University has warned.

A combination of overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution are driving the reefs to extinction.

Roger Bradbury from ANU in a recent sciencealert.com.au article said “The scientific evidence for this is compelling and unequivocal, but there seems to be a collective reluctance to accept the logical conclusion — that there is no hope of saving the global coral reef ecosystem,”

Some coral reefs are biodiversity hotspots, meaning they contain a large number of unique animals and plants, some of which are not found anywhere else. Dr Bradbury said “it will be a tragedy for global conservation as hot spots of biodiversity are destroyed.”

“Coral reefs will be the first, but certainly not the last, major ecosystem to succumb to the Anthropocene – the new geological era now emerging.” Anthropocene is the term used by geologists to describe the new era in which humans have had such a large impact on our planet and its processes.

Dr Bradbury is advocating directing more resources to studying a post reef future. “By persisting in the false belief that coral reefs have a future, we grossly misallocate the funds needed to cope with the fallout from their collapse. Money isn’t spent to study what to do after the reefs are gone.”

The message seems clear, if you want to check out the beautiful World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef 1500 km north of Perth, you better get to it, as soon it might well be lost forever.

For more check out Dr Bradbury’s opinion piece at nytimes.com

Source: Sciencealert.com.auDr Bradbury ANU Profile


7,500 Help Scientists Map The Night Sky

Thousands of people are helping scientists answer the big questions about the universe.

TheSkyNet a collaboration between researchers from The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, University of Western Australia and Curtin University links unprocessed data from radio telescopes to peoples home computers.

So far 7,500 Internet citizens have rallied to the call to help find interesting information in the huge amount of data that the telescopes collects.It works by the scientists sending out  chunks of information to volunteers computers that crunch the data when they are idle. The results are then sent back to the scientists and another chunk downloaded.

The systems works the same as the SETI@home and Folding@home projects, both of which use distributed computing to help solve complex problems.

So far the initiative has completed 1.6 billion processing jobs and processed an astronomical 9.3 Terabytes of data (pun intended).

You can download the client here or run it in a browser here.

The video below details how theSkyNet works and the massive amounts of data upcoming projects including the Square Kilometre Array will use.

Reference: Media Release TheSkyNet

Nobel Laureate Prof. Brian Schmidt Sells Out Public Lecture

Professor Brian Schmidt who earlier in the year won a Nobel prize for his work on the expanding Universe, has sold out a talk at the University of Western Australia in Perth next Wednesday.

Prof Schmidt will be talking about how he and his team discovered that the Universe is expanding using techniques such as Red Shift and others to fundamentally change the way we think about Physics.

Redshifts is a phenomena attributable to the Doppler effect which describes what happens to sound waves relative to a moving object. A great example of this is when a police car passes you. As the car gets closer to you the siren gets louder, and then gets quieter as it moves further away. Redshifts are the same but on a galactic level, with lightwaves in this case tending to increase in wavelength, technically called “redshifting”.

It is fantastic to see so many people interested in this world renowned Australian scientist in Perth and lets hope scientific issues and news continues to gain in popularity.

Professor Brian Schmidt

Source: expandinguniverse.eventbrite.com

WA Not Installing As Many Solar Panels As The Eastern States

We aren’t installing as many Solar Panels as our Eastern Cousins, new data from the Australian Clean Energy Regulator has reported. However Australia as a whole installed more household solar panels than anyone else in the world last year, according to data from the International Energy Agency. 

Of the 750 000 Australian homes that now have Solar Panels on their roofs, only 104 000 are in WA.

These gains were due to our preference to install Solar panels on residential roofs, with other countries investing in larger scale plants.

”Australian support for solar has had a lot of support at the residential level, and all political parties in the country have supported residential solar. Elsewhere in the world, most policy is geared towards much larger-scale commercial projects.” Ric Brazzale reportedly said to the  Sydney Morning Herald. Mr Brazzale is the president of the REC Agents Association, a body representing traders and creators of renewable energy certificates.

WA is one of the sunniest states in Australia, yet Queensland have installed more Solar Panels.  Perth has over 300 days of sunshine. This means that for a vast majority of the year Solar Panels are creating energy, lowering the amount of time for a return on investment.

This investment by ordinary Australians is already having impacts on the need for new non-renewable energy investment, with the Australian Energy Market Operator finding that it has led to a five year investment delay in South Australia, meaning due to less demand less investment is needed in building new power stations.

So what explains WA’s lack of investment in Solar Panels? One is the government’s feed in tariff, which came into effect two years after South Australia and Queensland. Another could be the lack of competition in the WA electricity market.

Top Solar Postcodes

The postcode 6208 which includes Pinjarra, Oakley and Ravenswood, just south east of Mandurah has the best Solar Panel uptake in Western Australia, with 24.7% of residents having installed solar panels. This places them fourth in Australia, with Dubbo NSW taking the top spot with 28%.

Below is the list of the top 10 postcodes of WA courtesy of Energymatters.com.au:

1. – 6208 Pinjarra, Oakley, Blythewood, Ravenswood – 24.7%
2. – 6069 Ellenbrook, Brigadoon, The Vines – 23.8%
3. – 6155 Canning Vale, Willetton – 19.7%
4. – 6065 Ashby, Madeley, Sinagra, Wangara – 19.2%
5. – 6233 Australind, Binningup, Leschenault, Parkfield – 18.7%
6. – 6210 Dawesville, Falcon, Halls Head, Wannanup – 18.0%
7. – 6164 Atwell, Banjup, Hammond Park, Yangebup – 17.0%
8. – 6280 Ambergate, Busselton, Jindong, Kaloorup – 15.7%
9. – 6109 Maddington, Orange Grove – 15.7%
10. – 6111 Canning Mills, Champion Lakes, Karragullen – 15.7%


Sources: Sciencewa.net.au, Energymatters.com.au, Adelaidenow.com.au, SMH.com.au, cleanenergyregulator.gov.au